This week in adaptation news: Disney has a new live-action reboot of The Jungle Book in the works, some new images cropped up from the Odd Thomas adaptation despite questions surrounding the film’s release, and Fox has plans for a series version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. As for live-action movie adaptations that should have happened by now but still haven’t, I bring you today’s topic of discussion. Though this popular 1980s animated show was recently rebooted as a re-imagined animated series, plans to bring the colorful cast of characters to the big screen have yet to come together. Hit the jump to get sight beyond sight. Hollywood! Adapt this: ThunderCats!
First of all, I don’t know how I went so long without offering up ThunderCats for adaptation consideration! Perhaps I got caught up the hopes that the new animated series reboot would fire up some nostalgia in a producer somewhere. Second of all, that particular reboot has apparently been cancelled, so we might as well speculate a bit on a live-action adaptation just for fun, shall we?
The original series centered on a group of cat-like humanoids fleeing their dying planet of Thundera and pursued by the evil Mutants of Plun-darr to the refuge planet Third Earth. The ThunderCats also face a threat in the ancient evil of Mumm-Ra, all all-powerful entity bent on destroying the heroes and their powerful talismans. The ThunderCats are led by Lion-O, the Thunderean prince who exists as an adolescent mind inside a powerful young man’s body due to a faulty suspended animation chamber during their space voyage. He is trained in part by his companions Panthro, Cheetara, Tygra, WilyKit and WilyKat, and Snarf, who each have their own particular talents.
ThunderCats begs for an origin story as a live-action feature since the tale is not even remotely common knowledge. The flight from Thundera has elements of both Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope and Superman’s origin story, so it should be easy for audiences to relate to from the outset. From there, the adventures of the ThunderCats are built around them being strangers in a strange land who battle the forces of both those who pursue them for their treasures and their new world’s ancient evil who seeks to maintain his domination over the land. ThunderCats is essentially a coming-of-age story for Lion-O, who has access to great power and knowledge, but must earn the right to possess both along the way. This is a character-centric story if ever there was one and deserves to be told as such, while also having plenty of room for big, bold action sequences.
On a technical note, there’s no reason a ThunderCats movie couldn’t be made today. Motion-capture animation and visual effects have reached the point where humanoid cat creatures are almost child’s play. (Though we’ll have to wait until we see what the title characters in Jonathan Liebesman’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles look like. If successful, hopefully that will make ThunderCats and films like it an easier sell.) With films like James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy further pushing limits of technical challenges and audience acceptance, we no longer have to attempt to perfectly match a human actor with a humanoid character and hope that the make-up will be convincing. Though practical effects still ring more authentic and believable, digital touch-ups help to smooth over the rough edges, especially in the case of furry critters like the ThunderCats.
I’d love to see the ThunderCats brought to the big screen in a live-action feature in this unprecedented era of quality superhero movies. The success of Ninja Turtles and continued popularity of Marvel movies will hopefully encourage studios and audiences to check out less-conventional films, like a space action/adventure fantasy that centers on anthropomorphic cat warriors. If done right, a savvy studio could turn ThunderCats into a lucrative franchise that actually communicates morals and responsibilities to its young audience. (Or Lion-O could just snap Mumm-Ra’s dusty old neck and be done with it.) I’m not holding my breath on this one but I would sure love to see someone give it a go. (*Warner Bros. had one in the works back in 2008-09, but has put an indefinite hold on it. The reboot of the animated series was also recently reported as being cancelled, so that fact doesn’t boost hopes for a live-action remake any time soon.)
Let us know your thoughts on a ThunderCats adaptation, such as who you’d like to see in the roles, what the plot of the first film should be and whether or not it should be looked at as a franchise property (and what should be done with Snarf). Get caught up on all of our previous articles of Hollywood! Adapt This! here and be sure to check back next week when we tackle another adaptation!